Francis prompts war on the word 'poverty'

Word becoming taboo

Pope Francis’ statements on economic inequality — paired with the news hook of the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s 'War on Poverty' bill — haven’t gone unnoticed in Washington.

- America

At America’s In All Things blog, Kevin Clarke notes that 'the capacity of the market to respond adequately to the needs of the poor' has become an issue in the 2014 congressional campaign, thanks in part to the 'Francis effect.'

Clarke quotes The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg on one manifestation of the Francis effect: 'Republicans find themselves forced to justify votes to cut food stamps and unemployment benefits even as they try to counter the perception that they are indifferent to the poor.' Still, it’s only January, and there’s no guarantee that reporters will be asking about poverty in November.

The Rebublican Party is not going to let poverty become the focal point of the election season. (The Washington Examiner’s David M. Drucker points to their preferred issue: 'Republican campaign strategists view the troubled Obamacare as unqualified electoral gold.') And it’s not a sure thing that the Democrats are going to want to touch it either.

The New Yorker’s Jeff Sosel writes, 'poverty' is not a word that pays dividends in American politics. According to his research, the word has virtually disappeared from State of the Union addresses since Johnson hammered at it, and public opinion polls explain why: 'Even the poor don’t want to hear about the poor: most (studies say) see themselves as "middle class." Hence the replacement, by Presidents of both parties, of freighted words like "the poor" with sad-eyed clichés: "people who are struggling," and "folks" who are "down on their luck" and "bump into some hard times." In this way, national policy becomes a kind of large-scale human-interest story.'

FULL STORY The war on the word “poverty” (America)